Enormous collapsing clouds of cosmic gas and dust may yield clues on how massive stars form, which is an enduring mystery of astronomy.
One such cloud, called BYF73, has been studied by a research team using CSIRO’s Mopra radio telescope. Peter Barnes, an Australian researcher working at the University of Florida in the US, leads the team. The massive hydrogen cloud is collapsing in on itself and will probably form a huge cluster of young stars. Continue reading Mega star nursery gives birth to new knowledge→
“Twice the resolution and all the photons,” is Prof Chris Tinney’s new catchphrase. It refers to new equipment being commissioned on the Anglo-Australian Telescope to hunt for planets beyond our Solar System (exoplanets). Chris, from the University of New South Wales, is a leader of the Anglo-Australian Planet Search (AAPS), which has found 32 exoplanets, almost 10% of the worldwide total, since 1998.
A Doppler shift in a star’s light spectrum often indicates the presence of planets. Unlike previous equipment, which frequently missed some of that light, the new system uses a cluster of optical fibres to gather all the starlight, boosting efficiency and doubling the Doppler precision. Continue reading Doubling up pays dividends in exoplanet hunt→
Advanced telescopes need advanced astronomers to run them. Australia is matching the millions of dollars it is investing in new telescope technology with funds to help train the rising stars of Australian astronomy.
“We’ve had big investments in infrastructure, and now we need young scientists with the expertise to use them,” says Elaine Sadler, professor of Astrophysics at the University of Sydney and chair of the National Committee for Astronomy.
One new tranche of research funding for early career astronomers comes in the form of three-year Super Science Fellowships from the Commonwealth Government. In 2011, 14 young astronomers became Super Science Fellows, joining the 17 who started work in 2010. All up, astronomy will receive one-third of the Federal Government’s $27 million commitment to the Fellowships program. Continue reading Nurturing super astronomers at home→
Australia’s first observatory was built on the shores of Sydney Harbour by Lieutenant William Dawes of the First Fleet, on the point where the southern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge now stands. Optical astronomy was essential for maritime navigation, and for providing precise location measurements for surveying the new continent.
Australian astronomers have long been contributing to our understanding of a strange cosmological phenomenon—the Universe’s missing matter.
In the early 1970s, Ken Freeman of the Australian National University (ANU) determined that spiral galaxies must contain more matter than we can see. He postulated that dark matter—an invisible material first proposed 40 years earlier—must make up at least half the mass of these galaxies. Now, patches of dark matter are thought to be scattered across the Universe, playing a major role in holding galaxies and groups of galaxies together. Continue reading Spinning galaxies reveal missing matter→
A project to produce more than double the number of galaxy distance measurements than all other previous surveys, could lead to an explanation of one of nature’s biggest mysteries—whether dark energy, an invisible force that opposes gravity, has remained constant or changed since the beginning of time.